Waters flowing to the most northerly point of the Yukon Territory empty where the North American continent meets the Beaufort Sea. This is the Yukon North Slope (YNS), a vast coastal plain whose western region escaped glaciation and served as a refuge for many wildlife and plant species during the last ice age. The YNS remains a pristine landscape abundant in northern and arctic wildlife including polar bear, grizzly bear, muskoxen, Dall’s sheep and moose. Seasonally, the Porcupine caribou herd migrates to calve on the YNS and adjacent Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the entire western Canadian Arctic population of lesser snow geese of several hundred thousand birds arrive to use the rich coastal plains and wetlands. No roads or towns exist only the seasonal hunting camps of the Inuvialuit.
The YNS supports the harvesting and cultural traditions of the Inuvialuit. The Inuvialuit have long advocated that the entirety of the Yukon North Slope must be protected. They partly achieved this through the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA) that established Ivvavik National Park and Herschel Island Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park as wilderness parks and through IFA direction to maintain the YNS “as a special conservation management regime whose dominant purpose is the conservation of wildlife, habitat and traditional native use.”
Round River Work
Round River has been working with the Inuvialuit and the IFA-established Wildlife Management Advisory Council to document the ecological and cultural values of the YNS to inform Yukon North Slope Wildlife Conservation and Management Plan and the development of Yukon’s first Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in the eastern YNS, an area the Inuvialuit called Aullaviat/Aunguniarvik – ‘where people and animals travel’- .
Since 2014, Round River has collected and utilized Inuvialuit traditional knowledge, available western science about the ecological and cultural values of the YNS in conjunction information about potential climate change effects on these values, to develop models and maps synthesizing the region’s conservation requirements. We also continue to support the Inuvialuit and the Wildlife Management Advisory Council through developing information and tools to inform their decision-making.